North Korea, emboldened by Trump peril and Chinese allies, tries harder line
North Korea on Thursday launched two missiles as part of an unannounced test, possibly in order to put pressure on the US to meet an end-of-the-year deadline set by the regime for the lifting of US sanctions. However, some analysts suggest that North Korea could get by without a US-North Korea agreement on the lifting of sanctions in exchange for the establishment of North Korea’s nuclear program. However, if such a deal is not reached, it may “lock in the current state of affairs, with its downsides for all stakeholders, for years to come,” Andray Abrahamian of the George Mason University Korea believes.
A diplomat in South Korea on Thursday said that while North Korea has been demanding that the US lift its sanctions, Washington “can’t take the risk of easing sanctions first, having already given a lot of gifts to [North Korean leader] Kim without substantial progress on denuclearization, including summits,” adding that “sanctions are basically all they have to press North Korea.”
Last week, North Korea urged the US government to act “wisely” as the end-of-the-year deadline approaches. In October, a new round of US-North Korean working-level negotiations collapsed within hours, with Pyongyang accusing Washington of being unwilling to change its approach to the country. Those negotiations were the first substantial talks between the two countries since the failure of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February. In the past few months, North Korea repeatedly slammed US sanctions and carried out a variety of missile tests.